With a guitar-driven album that at times echoes such minimalist composers as Terry Riley (in its tonal psychedelia) and Steve Reich (in its percussive patterning), the Texas-based musician Andrew Weathers continues to build a body of work that mixes rigor and wandering, exactitude and ease, ambition and intimacy, grandeur and isolation.
The album is Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, credited to the Andrew Weathers Ensemble and released on his Bandcamp page. Weathers has a composer’s desire for concerted expression and a seer’s hunger for wisdom. His homespun vocals reach full force amid evocative, densely orchestrated settings. Sometimes the music is rhythmically momentous, like “We Already Exist Forever (We Will Eat),” while at others it drones as an extrapolation of Indian raga, for example “The Light Pulse Earth Grid is a Channel.” The result is an amalgam, in the sense of a rich composite, the parts inseparably intertwined but still recognizable. It’s music that, and this is meant as a compliment, suggests signifiant effort, the effort of making something vital, something not just new but trenchant and meaningful.
The songs on Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, per Weathers’ description, took as their origin point material from The Industrial Workers of the World Little Red Songbook. That period mix of progressive fervor and community action finds an outlet here in the sheer ecstasy of a track like “Astral Swords (Seven – A Past That Folds Over),” in which his voice is just one rough-textured element among many.
And then for one brief ambient track, texture is given its momentary, quiet primacy. The piece is “The Dream Body Does Carve (Green Grave).” In it a dense sine wave of a guitar line undulates between threadbare piano playing and tiny little glitches of synthesizer whimsy. It brings to mind the gestural rural atmospherics of the great Scott Tuma. The association makes particular sense, in that at times Weathers’ voice suggest favorably the vocals of Scott Tuma’s former Souled American bandmates, Joe Adducci and Chris Grigoroff. If the idea of Souled American regrouping in order to record an album of Steve Reich covers sounds appealing, then Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall is the album for you.
As for the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, it isn’t precisely a band, except perhaps in the Steely Dan sense of the word: nearly 20 musicians are listed in the credits, including Kyle Bruckmann on oboe, Brendan Landis on electric guitar, and Erik Schoster on Pippi computer (that’s Schoster’s music-making software coded in the language Python), just to name a few.
You know that joke in The Blues Brothers movie where Elwood asks the bartender, “What kind of music do you usually have hear?” and she replies, “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western”? Well, Weathers only has western — it’s a useful descriptor for how he draws from aspects of rock and folk, bypassing country almost entirely, as he heads out toward vast hypothetical expanses.
Get the full album at andrewweathers.bandcamp.com. More on Weathers, who is from North Carolina and lived and was educated (at Mills College) in Oakland, California, before recently relocating to Littlefield, Texas, at andrewweathers.com.